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Lay of Logha the Wise

Upon the banks of the fair river lorn,   As motes of light did waft from morning sun   Down to the writhing tangle of the heap   Of vine and branch and fern and bush of Trogh,   Spirit to guide and guard the city surround,   Environ to the noble beast and plant and mortalkind.     Old Trogh did seek a peerless mortal mind,   One sharp as blades, one strong as bronze, and bright   As calm waters bearing the moon's own face.   Trogh called for man and woman who did think   Themselves to be among the wise to come   Before the Ghorataan. It bade   To test them 'gainst the riddles it made.
— from the opening of The Lay of Logha the Wise
     
And all around did break and fail   Before the riddles Trogh had made, that day   Until before them came a young man born   To only herd a small herd of whistling bugs.   And around him failures did laugh and laugh,   For they were tutored, education wrought,   How could a lowly bug-herd answer what   They had seen they could not?     But Trogh's voice echoed silent to all there   "Come close boy, show us all those things you can."
— from the opening of The Lay of Logha the Wise
     
All around, men and women dared not speak,   For now all had seen Logha, taught only   By herding crook and peasant's troth had here   Done what their letters and fine learning couldn't.   The Prince came forward, pale and shaking hands   "Deception! Cheater in our midst! He broke   His oath to the great Spirit sworn! He must   Be thrown into the river, let him drown!"   He drew blade, pointed at young Logha fair   And made to charge the young man there     But before he could a single step   The Ghoratan did stir, and grapple him.   The Prince hung in the air, splayed out wide   And as the sight made halt the gathered crowd   Trogh did speak aloud, "Shame! When pride is easy broke   Discard it, for only worthless could be stuff   So frail. And now is not Logha who just   Gave offense unto me, but you, oh Prince."     Trogh's grasp slackened, the Prince fell to the ground.   Crumpled upon himself. He did before   The Spirit weep, and in prostration call,   "Oh Trogh, I plead, I see the faults are mine!   My hubris blinded me, but now I see!   I beg you pardon me, oh Great Spirit."   And Trogh's voice came, as gentle as the breeze,   "Oh Prince, it shall be earned. It shall be earned."     The Prince felt the weight of Trogh's mind   Fall from him, as his attention turned to   Young Logha, speaking unto him then   "I sought you, and now found you, with purpose high.   Approach this Ghorataan mine, eat its fruit   With me commune, and this purpose now know."
— from the opening of The Lay of Logha the Wise


The Lay of Logha the Wise is one of the first literary works produced by the Ashfolk following the Sundering of Ngavar—which is responsible for the cultural and biological transformation of the Ngavari people into the Ashfolk—and is the earliest work of the post-Sundering age to enter the Ngavari literary canon. Set in the Broken Land Period, after the War of Shadow but before the rise of the Second Kingdom, it tells the story of a young man, recently having inherited an unimpressive herd of Daarent Yulghong from his parents. He answers the riddle challenges of Trogh, an immensely powerful Spirit of the Green, and sets out at its behest on a series of adventures in the Ngavari wilderness, charged with defeating evils and protecting the land.   The story is derived from a tradition of oral storytelling which, by all appearances, is based on actual historical events. Trogh was a real Spirit of the Green, patron to the city of Kalagh, and really did host a contest of riddles and wit, the winner of which really was a nomadic Bug-Herd. Beyond that, historical reality is impossibly confused by chaos inherent to all oral traditions that span the lengths of time and geography this one. This telling takes bits and pieces from versions that came from all across Ngavar, which were brought together in by the survivors of the Sundering of Ngavar.   It is in many ways a revival of the "High Pastoral," which had first become most popular during the Broken Land Period, the story's own setting. The genre can be divided into two branches, the Old and the New—the Old from before the Sundering, and the New from after, with The Lay serving as both the first iteration as the new, and forging the thematic conventions which would distinguish it from what came before.   It is structured like a prototypical example of the genre: it takes the backdrop of an idealized version of rural life, and layers over it a journey of spiritual enlightenment, organized into an episodic structure, with each episode culminating in a dramatic confrontation and a very clear moral lesson, which may or may not be stated outright, and an incredible length which could only be relayed in easily-digestible chunks over the course of many nights. Having been written while survivors of the Sundering still lived, it's easy to see why it became so popular, as the genre's idealization of rural life fed into their aching desire to have their country back, rather than the ashen wasteland that was forced upon them, which was made only more acute by the fact that their cultural and spiritual lives had been bound up in the glorification of the forces of life-giving fertility which their land embodied, perhaps moreso than any other place in the world.   This is similar, if more severe, to the genre's original flourishing during the Broken Land Period, in which that land was defiled—first by the occupation of those rebelling against the laws of nature in the War of Shadow, and then by the nobles, priests and kings whose response to the war's end prevented the restoration of the kingdom, splitting it in ways that, even come the Sundering, would never be fully healed. As with much of the art of the age following the War of Shadow, the Old High Pastorals were a response to trauma, that of individuals, and that of society. They were an answer to the desire so many had to see their land reunified, rather than split apart by ambition and spite, and as such they were either set in the era of the First Kingdom, or else saw their then-contemporary setting reunified by the story's end.   But the Lay of Logha the Wise takes a different approach. It was at least possible that the Broken Land could be unified, and it was, after a century and a half, with the rise of the Second Kingdom. The Sundering of Ngavar was no mere dispute of politics or theology. Even if the physical space that was their land could be reclaimed from the Ash, the spirit of the land was lost; those spirits which guided the land were burned in the hundreds, and Ngavari families by the thousands, in the Summerlord's wrath. Ngavar-That-Was had gone forever. But perhaps something new might be built in its place.   The central genius of the Lay is in its use of metaphors to comment on the Sundering and its aftermath. It offered a glimpse at a brilliant and fecund Ngavar, yes, but the story itself was about how that had been lost, and could not be gotten back. In the story, Logha's parents were killed by devotees of the Enthroned Shadow, holdouts from the War of Shadow which had not been rooted out because the Land, Broken as it was, could muster the resources to hunt them all down. In the story, the disunity of the Land and the loss of Logha's parents are both metaphors for the Sundering, with essentially all of the Lay's conflicts being derived from that disunity, and a large portion of Logha's journey to enlightenment being coming to terms with his loss, symbolic of how the Ngavari needed to come to terms with the loss of their home.   The most enduring image of this journey is in the second episode of the Lay, when Logha uses his wit to save a village from the machinations of another group of devotees of the Enthroned Shadow. He is approached by a bug-herding family from that village, who remind him of his own parents. He tries to maintain his composure, because he is a divinely-anointed hero, but he can't. And he breaks down crying at their feet. But he is not punished or reprimanded, instead the family, and ultimately the village, comfort him. He learns that there is no shame in acknowledging and feeling pain, and that denying emotion prevents healing.   This resonated with what remained of the Ngavari. They were a people in pain; their religion, culture, and families had been torn apart and burned. To become whole again they had to heal, and they could not heal unless they let themselves feel pain. This scene, the Tears of Logha, has become the single most popular artistic subject among the Ashfolk, having been realized in fresco, tapestry, portraiture, sculpture, and even stage productions.   All this is to say that the Lay of Logha the Wise has left an indellible mark on the Ngavari psyche. And consequently, the political and theological ideas the author included proved to be deeply influential. They also set the tone for the myriad thematic differences between the Old High Pastorals and the New.   Most significantly, the Lay has a distinct anti-monarchist edge to it that only entered the cultural mainstream after the Ngavari were transformed into the Ashfolk by the Sundering. Unlike the heroes of the Old High Pastorals, Logha is a nomad, disconnecting him from any one region of countryside, which had played into the nostalgic undertones of previous iterations of the genre, and disconnects Logha from any crown or sovereign. And the enlightenment Logha finds over the course of his journey is structured in such a way as to preclude monarchical government. Even the character of the Prince Ghongar, who is portrayed sympathetically once he has been humbled, first by Logha, and then by Trogh itself, comes to doubt the wisdom of monarchy, despite being an integral part of a monarchical regime.   At the time it was written, the anti-monarchical sentiment which now pervades Ashfolk culture hadn't quite settled in, as a great many people still longed for what they had lost. The Lay of Logha the Wise recast the past as being beautiful in spite of monarchy, and was a critical part of the political direction which has directed Ashfolk culture and politics for the past two centuries.


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